Man holding passport

A survey commissioned by the U.S. Travel Association shows that nearly three-quarters of Americans are unprepared for REAL ID, the new identification program that travelers will need to board a flight beginning October 1, 2020.

Millions could be prevented from boarding a plane if they do not have a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or another approved form of identification to board a flight.

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The survey, conducted by Longwoods International for the U.S. Travel Association, found that 72 percent of Americans either do not have a REAL ID license or are unsure if they do.

Moreover, more than half of the American public—57 percent—said they did not know about the deadline a year from now.

And while a passport is a permissible alternative to a REAL ID driver’s license, the study also found that 39 percent of Americans did not have acceptable forms of identification.

All told, 99 million Americans could be affected starting next October.

In fact, using the date from the survey, economists for the U.S. Travel Association found that if REAL ID standards were in place right now, at least 78,500 air travelers could be turned away at TSA checkpoints on the first day, costing the U.S. economy $40.3 million in lost travel-related spending.

If that trend sustained for a full week, the figures could grow to more than half a million (549,500) air travelers prevented from boarding planes and $282 million in lost travel spending.

“Our survey gave us the answer we didn’t want to hear: that there is alarming lack of awareness and preparedness a short year out from REAL ID going into full effect,” U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow said in a statement. “This is significant not only because it will inconvenience travelers and create confusion at U.S. airports—it could do significant damage to our nation’s economy.”

To counter that possibility, the U.S. Travel Association has launched a broad education effort alongside the full spectrum of public- and private-sector travel stakeholders: airports, federal government agencies, tourism offices, and businesses that depend on American travelers.

For more information about REAL ID, additional findings from the study, policy recommendations and other resources, click here.